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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors

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The Spurs ride a four-game winning streak into the Great White North to take on Kyle Lowry and the Raptors.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Toronto Raptors

Air Canada Centre, Toronto, On
December 9, 2015, 6:30 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: FSSW Radio: 1200 AM WOAI

While the basketball paradigm has shifted this year - the Eastern Conference boasts more teams with winning records than the typically vaunted Western Conference - it's still a jumbled mess to sort out.

Case in point: Cleveland, the top seed, is only two games ahead of the 10th seed (Detroit). The tiny gap between the elite and the morass of the conference makes Toronto, which has nearly knocked off the unbeaten Warriors twice, an interesting case study.

With an All-Star caliber player in Kyle Lowry, and several productive players around him, Toronto finds itself with a 13-9 record and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Once Cleveland returns to full capacity, and presumably takes control of the conference, Toronto will be in the conversation for the second tier. The trick, of course, is to separate themselves from the conversation and make a deep run in the playoffs. Indiana, Miami, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta and Boston are all vying for the token "Eastern Conference Finals team that doesn't have LeBron" place.

This season is certainly set up for Raptors to make an appearance in their first Eastern Conference Finals, after all.

Lowry is a matchup nightmare for opposing point guards, DeMar DeRozan increased his assist rate (but still takes too many ill-advised shots), Jonas Valanciunas was productive before fracturing the fourth metacarpal in his left hand and the additions of DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph and Luis Scola beefed up the fringes of the rotation. Toronto has proven to be effective on the road -- perhaps an positive indicator of playoff success.

(Speaking of Joseph, his four-year, $30 million contract looks a lot better. Toronto is outscoring its opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor and losing by 1.1 points per 100 possessions when he's sitting. The Raptors defense takes the biggest hit when Joseph hits the pine. Look at the two-man lineup combination including Joseph and the defense is consistently a few ticks better.)

Toronto has all of the makings of an Eastern Conference team that can make some noise in a conference full of early season noise.

As ever, it's up to the Raptors to make a leap that has yet to happen in franchise history.

Matchup to watch: Tony Parker vs. Kyle Lowry. Parker's field goal percentage (57.1 percent) has never been higher than this season. Across the board, he's playing better basketball after people questioned whether his body was breaking down. Tonight he faces Lowry, one of the more versatile point guards in the league, in a matchup that will test him on both sides of the floor. Lowry, despite his 6-foot-frame, is a physical brute that is a terror on defense because of his ability to create turnovers.

San Antonio Spurs (18-4)

Toronto Raptors (13-9)

December 9, 2015

Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON, Canada

6:30 PM CST

TV: FSSW

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Kyle Lowry

Danny Green

SG

DeMar Derozan

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Terrence Ross

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Luis Scola

Tim Duncan

C

Bismack Biyombo


Game prediction: Spurs by 7.

For the Raptors fans' perspective, visit Raptors HQ.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.